The world’s fifth largest country harbors plenty of showstoppers—Iguaçu Falls, the Pantanal, Rio, and the lion’s share of the Amazon rain forest, to name a few. The state of Minas Gerais is one of its more hidden gems, a region of bright green mountains where you can step back into Brazil’s history on the cobblestoned lanes of whitewashed colonial mining towns. With an intriguing topography defined by one of the largest quartzite outcrops in the world, Minas Gerais is known for its bucolic charms and its hospitality. This is the home of dairy farms and cowboys, centuries-old ranches and traditional wood-fired cuisine, and distilleries that churn out the country’s best cachaça—a sugarcane alcohol used in caiparinhas.
Outside the Reserva lies Ibitipoca State Park, and day excursions are part of the lodge's offerings. Stretching some 3,680 acres (1,488 hectares) across a massive quartzite outcrop, the park is an intriguing wonderland of waterfalls that run red with natural minerals, unusual geological formations, deep grottoes, and thick forests. Several villages in the area date back centuries and bear vestiges of their colonial past. Conceiao de Ibitipoca, near the entrance of the park, has an 18th-century church and locally made textiles and wood crafts.
Much of this lush landscape was once underwater, and, though it has risen into rippling hills over millions of years, the legacy of its past is still visible around the Reserva do Ibitipoca. Tropical vegetation drapes quartzite canyons and caves, and the closest beach is incongruously atop a nearby mountain. Waterfalls spill over moss-covered rocks and into fresh pools of water tinted amber by the abundant metamorphic stones.
The Atlantic Forest once covered great swaths of coastal Brazil, but agriculture and development have reduced it to a fragile patchwork of wilderness fragments. Over the years, wildlife populations have declined dramatically due to hunting and habitat loss. At the Reserva do Ibitipoca, the forest is beginning to rejuvenate and expand again, thanks to the efforts of the lodge owners. As former farmlands return to the wild, a number of native species are returning or being reintroduced. Along with some 350 species of birds, this a natural habitat for elusive pumas and ocelots, as well as wild boar, tayra, and monkeys. Bromeliads abound, as well as wild orchids, dazzling purple spider flowers, and unusual lichens.
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